Black Swan – 8.5

Powerful, ambiguous, provocative horror film, set in the world of ballet but mostly in Nina (Natalie Portman)’s mind. I went to see it as a duty, to round out my Oscar list, having overdosed on the trailer, but found the shots that turned me off in previews were compelling in context. The best surprise was the role of Lily, seemingly set up as an evil alter ego but in fact playing a far more subtle role. Was she crushing Nina or liberating her? Was she trying to usurp Nina’s role, or was she an agent of Thomas’s designed to break through Nina’s frigidity? Did she destroy Nina or lead her to perfection? Scene after blood-curdling scene made me look away while simultaneously challenging my mind: what was real and what was only a manifestation of an obsessed mind? Lurking in the background was the familiar question, does great art come from the struggle between genius and insanity? And, not being a dance fan, I won’t even get into the questions the film presents about ballet. Almost needless to say, Natalie Portman will win an Oscar, and she deserves it.

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